What happens after you have been questioned by the police under caution?

28th August 2019 | Legal Insights & Resources|

Reviewed by Nick Titchener on 23rd August 2023

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Nick Titchener

Managing Partner

In Brief

If the police suspect you of a criminal offence you will attend the police station to be interviewed under caution. You are entitled to legal representation throughout, and if you have not been officially cautioned prior then any evidence gathered cannot be used in court. Afterwards, you will either be charged, released without charge, released on bail (meaning you must return at a fixed date) or released under investigation (meaning you will be notified of the outcome when investigations are complete).

What is an interview under caution?

By law, you must be cautioned before any questions can be posed to you in an interview, otherwise anything you say during the interview answers cannot then be used as evidence in court. A police interview is therefore known as an interview under caution.

What is a police caution?

When you are cautioned, a police officer must state the following phrase to you, prior to your interview commencing:

‘You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’

What you then proceed to say – or indeed not to say – during a police interview is one of the key factors in determining the outcome of the police’s investigation into a case, then deciding what action – if any – may be taken against you as a result.

This is not to say that just because you are being questioned you should answer those questions. Equally, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t answer them either. The question of whether you should or should not answer questions from a police officer is a very important one, and it is where expert legal advice becomes so important.

The decision about what to do and what to say can make all the difference to how the case turns out, both initially and also later if it does go to court.

Why would you be asked to attend an interview under caution?

If you’ve been asked to attend an interview under caution, it’s likely that the police believe there are grounds to suspect you’ve committed a criminal offence. 

Although this doesn’t mean you’re believed to be guilty and will be prosecuted, it does mean that the evidence obtained at present suggests you may have been involved in the offence.

What happens during an interview under caution?

During the interview, all important information should be disclosed by the police to ensure you’re fully aware of the interview process and your rights during it. This includes:

  • The names of the officers in attendance 
  • The purpose of the interview 
  • Why you have been asked to attend the interview
  • That you have the right to legal representation
  • That you can withdraw yourself from the interview 
  • That anything you say can be used as evidence in a court of law 

Once you’ve been cautioned, you’ll be asked multiple questions, such as your whereabouts at specific times, your relationship with those involved in the event and whether you have any additional knowledge of the stated offence. 

How long do interviews under caution take?

The duration of the interview will depend on the nature of the case – with more complex investigations taking longer as a result of additional questions. Typically, these types of interviews will take around 1-2 hours. 

What legal advice can I have during a police interview?

By law, you are entitled to legal representation and free and independent legal advice at a police interview under caution if:

  • You have been arrested
  • You have been informed that you are going to be arrested
  • You have been informed that the police wish to interview you on a voluntary basis

Legal representation protects your basic legal rights throughout the police interview process. If you choose to have a specialist criminal defence solicitor accompanying you to a police interview under caution, this is not an admission of guilt or involvement in the criminal offence you are suspected of committing or being involved in.

Expert legal representation at an interview may ensure you don’t do or say anything that can be misinterpreted or twisted by the police whilst they are questioning you or at a later date.

We can arrange for you to be represented by a specialist criminal defence solicitor whatever the offence and wherever the police interview is due to be held.

What happens after you have been questioned under caution?

Once the police are satisfied that they have questioned you sufficiently, you will either be:

  • Released from the police station without charge, having been told that no further action will be taken against you
  • Released on police bail – with or without conditions – and required to return to the police station at a fixed date and time
  • Released under investigation (RUI) which is a similar situation to when you have been released on bail but in these circumstances there is no specified date when you have to return to the police station and there are in fact no bail conditions that can be placed on you
  • Charged with the criminal offence that you have been questioned regarding 

If you are released on police bail or charged with committing or being involved in the criminal offence, it is extremely important that you seek expert legal representation to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

What is a voluntary police interview?

Also known as voluntary attendance or a ‘Caution plus three’, a voluntary police interview usually takes place at a police station, although it can also take place at your place of work or even at your home.

A voluntary police interview is an increasingly popular means of interviewing an individual suspected of committing a criminal offence, as the police do not have to hold you in a custody suite and they are not obliged to provide you with legal representation.

Is a voluntary interview less serious than an interview under arrest?

If you attend a voluntary interview, you have the right to request and receive independent legal advice to protect your rights. You should seek expert legal representation as soon as you are able to do so as, despite the fact that the interview is voluntary, it is no less serious than a police interview conducted under caution.

During a voluntary interview you are free to leave the police station at any time, unless you are then arrested by the police.

People often wrongly assume that because it’s voluntary and not always at a police station, a voluntary interview is somehow less serious than if you have been arrested.

At Lawtons our team of highly experienced legal representatives are available 24 hours a day and 7 seven days each week throughout the year to represent you. We can help guide you through the police interview process, arranging the interview with the police, at a time and date to suit you.  

Get in touch with us for expert legal advice and assistance, whether at a police interview under caution, a voluntary interview or at court. We’ll work with you to ensure the best possible outcome in your individual case.

Note: This guide is intended to give general information only and not intended to be used as the basis upon which advice is given nor should it be relied upon as giving advice specific to a case or individual.

Lawtons do not accept liability for anyone using this guide. Should you require specific advice in connection with a real case or situation, please contact us so we can provide specific legal advice and assistance.

About the author

Nick Titchener is the director and solicitor advocate of Lawtons. A dedicated criminal solicitor, he has significant experience in complex legal cases including sexual offences, violence and assault. 

Lawtons Solicitors, of which Nick also oversees the overall management, is a specialist firm of criminal law defence solicitors with branches across London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex.

FAQs about Being Questioned by the Police Under Caution

Is an interview under caution a criminal record?

A police caution does not count as a criminal conviction, but it can be used as evidence of your character if you are required to attend court in conjunction with another offence in the future. A police caution can show on both standard and enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks.

Is a voluntary interview still under caution?

If you are invited to a voluntary interview, you are not under arrest, but the interview will be recorded and it will take place under a police caution, so it can be used as evidence in court if required.

Can I refuse to attend a voluntary interview?

As the interview is voluntary, you are free to refuse to attend – however, be aware that the police may then choose to arrest you in order to bring you in for an interview.

Can I be charged without being interviewed?

A police interview takes place because the police need evidence in order to be able to charge a suspect. Therefore, unless you have been directly caught committing a crime, no charges can be brought without going through the process of an interview.

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